Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio on Monday that Israel’s goal is to restore the quiet.
Simply put, the Gazans have a green light to continue to dramatically improve the range, accuracy, payloads, and sheer volume of weapons as long as they don’t use them. Too much.
That was, by the way, also the message of the Cast Lead Operation, which – despite its ferocity – did not make a significant dent in the capabilities of the Gaza forces.
WHY IS THE GOAL LIMITED TO QUIET ONLY?
#1. To avoid shifting focus from Iran?
If by some miracle President Obama decides that his reelection does not take priority over all else, then the decision to act on Iran will be based on an assessment of what Iran is doing – not what Israel is or isn’t doing in the Gaza Strip.
#2. To avoid devoting resources that might be used in an operation against Iran?
None of the equipment that would be used in a major campaign in the Gaza Strip is relevant to an operation against Iran.
If the concern is maintaining resources to deal with a response from Hizbullah in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran then one could argue that, if anything, it makes sense to neutralize the Gaza Strip now so that we don’t face a multi-front threat from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in retaliation for an Israeli operation against Iran.
#3. To avoid annoying the White House?
However bad the true situation is vis-à-vis President Obama and Israel today, it is measurably better now than it will be in a second term.
Yes, it will be “payback time” for Mr. Obama against Binyamin Netanyahu after the November elections. But there is a limit to what the punishment can be, and Netanyahu is already slated to receive it.
SO WHY ACT NOW?
#1. First and foremost, because the weapons now in the Gaza Strip could play a devastating role in the event of a multi-front conflict. A full-blown assault from Gaza significantly impairs the call up of reserves, interferes with the movement of regular forces and diverts critical resources from the other fronts.
#2. There is a very significant possibility that Israel’s relations with Egypt may deteriorate in the future.
In a worst-case nightmare situation, the heavily armed Gaza Strip could act as a forward station for invading Egyptian forces.
Conflict with Gaza in the future could also serve as an excuse or catalyst for an Egyptian clash with Israel.
At the very least, soured relations with Egypt would significantly deter Israel from acting against Gazan threats in the future.
#3. Israel’s latitude to act today is considerably greater than it will be if and when Iran has nukes.
It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write about the need to take a post-nuclear Iran into account. But it would be irresponsible to base policy on the rosy assumption that things are going to work out.
Yes, it is next to impossible to predict either to what extent a nuclear Iran would extend its nuclear umbrella to protect its satellites in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, or at least be perceived to do so by others who would in turn counsel us to avoid conflict at all costs. But there is no question that there is a very significant possibility that a nuclear Iran will dramatically change the equation.
Planning timelines of days and weeks are very comforting for policy-makers seeking to avoid costly decisions. But the purpose of the exercise is not to indefinitely postpone what is best done today. The decision-makers owe it to their constituents to look beyond the next weeks and even months.
Time and again the Israeli street has begged its leaders not to take short cuts, to follow through and get the job done despite the cost.
Time and again we have witnessed bereaved parents calling at the grave site for their dead son’s commanders to carry on the battle to victory and not be deterred by their loss.
Yes. The Israeli street is willing and able to make the sacrifices compelled by a planning horizon that goes beyond the next 24 hours.
Is the leadership?